Farm Sanctuary Releases Report Assessing Farm Animal Welfare Standards in U.S.; Report Released as Government, Agribusiness, Food Retailers, Others Hold Meetings to Develop and Promote ’Humane’ Standards
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Sept. 21 -- Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, today released “Farm Animal Welfare: An Assessment of Product Labeling Claims, Industry Quality Assurance Guidelines and Third-Party Certification Programs.” The first of its kind, this thoroughly researched independent report reviews the current state of farm animal welfare standards in the United States. This report is being released in conjunction with the USDA’s Future Trends in Animal Agriculture Symposium in Washington, D.C. which is addressing the current status of farm animal welfare.
In the past five years, more than one dozen farm animal quality assurance schemes have been developed. These include animal industry programs, retail food auditing programs, and third-party organic and humane food certification programs. In addition, developments of government-regulated food labeling and marketing claims relevant to animal welfare are underway.
“The lack of federal and state laws that prevent abusive farming practices has allowed cruel industrialized farms to propagate,” said Gene Bauston, president of Farm Sanctuary. “In an attempt to thwart passage of basic humane legislation, agribusiness has produced voluntary quality assurance programs, which erroneously claim to promote animal welfare. These industry schemes are intended to help maintain the status quo, and allow institutionalized animal cruelty to continue.”
Factory farms commonly warehouse hundreds or thousands of animals indoors, often in small pens or cages, or outdoors in barren lots. Grazing in open pasture and outdoor access is now the exception rather than the rule. Today, more than 90 percent of egg-laying hens in the U.S. are confined for their entire lives to cages so small the birds can’t spread their wings. More than two-thirds of sows in the U.S. are confined for most of their lives to crates that prevent them from even turning around. Dairy cows may be tied indoors inside cement-floored stalls or confined outdoors to barren dirt lots with limited or no access to shade and shelter. Cattle are fattened up in feedlots, virtual cattle cities where up to 100,000 animals are crowded into pens, breathing in noxious fumes and standing or lying in waste. And slaughterhouses have cut costs by increasing production rates, killing at lightning speed up to 400 cows, 1,100 pigs, and 12,000 chickens every hour.
Key Findings in this report include:
-- Animal industry quality assurance guidelines are inadequate; they codify inhumane farming systems, fail to prevent suffering and distress, and do not allow for the expression of normal animal behavior.
-- Food labeling and marketing claims, like “grass fed” and “cage free,” are generally subjective and not verified. The regulations of the National Organic Program are vague, non- specific as to species, and inconsistently applied.
-- Organic egg and dairy producers have been allowed to use loopholes to deprive animals of the opportunity to graze and forage in a natural setting.
-- Various humane certification and labeling programs have been developed in response to growing popular concerns about the cruel treatment of farm animals, but their impact at improving animal welfare has been minimal. While some humane certification standards may disallow certain cruel practices, significant deficiencies exist in these as well.
-- Specialty markets, like organic and “humane” foods, may help lessen animal suffering, but they affect only a very small percent, about 2 percent, of the billions of animals exploited for food each year in the U.S, and even animal derived foods produced according to a “humane” program may not meet consumer expectations.
Bauston added, “We have an ethical obligation to treat all animals, including those raised for food, with respect. This research report cuts through the hype of industry quality assurance programs and assesses what these programs really offer animals. Unfortunately, agribusiness’ has failed to provide cows, pigs, chickens and other animals with basic humane consideration.”
Industry quality assurance and audit programs assessed in this report include: American Meat Institute, American Sheep Industry Association, American Veal Association, Food Marketing Institute- National Council of Chain Restaurants, Milk and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Center, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Board, National Turkey Federation and United Egg Producers (Animal Care Certified Program). In addition, the following third-party certification programs are assessed: American Humane Association (Free Farmed Program), Animal Welfare Institute, Humane Farm Animal Care (Certified Humane Program) and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (National Organic Program). Product labeling and market claims programs from the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service for livestock, meat, poultry and eggs are assessed are also covered in this report.
A 20-page summary booklet, The Facts About Farm Animal Welfare Standards as well as the full 105-page research report Farm Animal Welfare: An Assessment of Product Labeling Claims, Industry Quality Assurance Guidelines and Third-Party Certification Programs is available to the media by contacting email@example.com or by calling 607-583-2225 ext. 233. The summary booklet and report is made available to the public by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 607-583-2225. Additional information can be found at http://www.factoryfarming.com.
About Farm Sanctuary
Farm Sanctuary is the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the “food animal” industry through research and investigations, legal and institutional reforms, public awareness projects, youth education, and direct rescue and refuge efforts. Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, NY and Orland, CA provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming. Additional information can be found at http://www.farmsanctuary.org or by calling 607-583-2225.
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